Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mystery real photo postcard:
Family from 100-plus years ago

This old real photo postcard was never used and comes with absolutely no information regarding who these people were. Is this a husband and wife and their three children? That could be the most likely scenario, but it's hardly the only one.

The stamp box on the back indicates that this was a Velox postcard and its design, according to, indicates that this from "Pre-1907-1910." There is also a line reading "This Side For The Address" on the back, which further supports this being from that period. (Divided-back postcards didn't emerge until 1907. Before that year, you couldn't write anything but the address on the back.)

So this photo is from at least 109 years ago. Possibly more.

Wouldn't it be interesting to know who they were, where they lived and what they did, presumably here in America?

Other mystery real photo postcards

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 2)

For the second installment in this new series showcasing cool stuff inside 1929's Volume I of The New Human Interest Library, here are some additional illustrations from the first section of the book, which is titled "The How-You-Grow Book." I believe that all of these were done by Herbert N. Rudeen; the first one was, for sure.

These illustrations feature Little Georgie, a very non-threatening-looking Sandman, Tommy Tumble, a roster and a gray "a grey kitty, with green eyes."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fascinating peek into early 1970s world of Long John Nebel

I'm about a third of the way through Long John Nebel: Radio Talk King, Master Salesman, and Magnificent Charlatan, a biography by Donald Bain that was published in 1974.

So far, to be honest, it's not very interesting. The book has been dominated thus far by the "salesman" portion of Nebel's life. That's not what I came to the book wanting to read about. I'm more interested in his many years as an overnight radio talk-show host who dabbled in bizarre and paranormal topics, bonded with Jackie Gleason, and influenced the likes of Art Bell.

The best part of the book so far has been the opening section, which describes Nebel's whirlwind marriage to Candy Jones and his home and lifestyle in early-1970s Manhattan. (Nebel died of cancer in 1978 at age 66.)

These are some of contents of Nebel's cluttered apartment on Manhattan's East Side, as detailed by Bain:

  • massive professional tape machines
  • a Musser vibraphone
  • expensive stereo equipment
  • books stacked in every room and corner, including the hallways
  • guitars
  • banjos
  • magazines
  • top-of-the-line cameras, never used2
  • thousands of record albums
  • multiple telephones
  • multiple answering machines
  • machines for taping phone calls
  • telephones that automatically dial when a pre-punched card is inserted3
  • automatic clothes presser
  • portable TV
  • radios
  • six bedroom copies of Overcoming the Fear of Death by Dr. David Cole Gordon

The living-room furniture consisted of "a couch, some chairs, and a few tables," none of which were accessible because of all the stuff.

Part of Nebel's "stuff" problem was that he had previously occupied two side-by-side apartments at the end of his hallway, with one serving as his office and recording studio. But, at the time this book was written, he no longer had the office and thus had crammed everything into the single apartment.

But, no matter how much available space he had, I think it's clear that he had some hoarding issues, and this section of Bain's book provides a kind of time capsule of his existence in Manhattan four-and-a-half decades ago.4

1. Other current reads:
  • The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape, by James Rebanks (just finished yesterday!)
  • Time and Again, by Clifford D. Simak
  • Latest issues of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Captain America: Steve Rogers
2. Bain writes: "the best cameras, none of which has ever had a roll of film run through it because Nebel, the former professional photographer, doesn't want to risk scratching them."
3. Some telephones of this type, called Western Electric Automatic Dialers, can be seen here.
4. For a description of some other eccentrics crammed into a different Manhattan apartment, circa 1992, check out "The Mountains of Pi," an article in The New Yorker by Richard Preston.

Mild obsession with typographical variants on Manning-Sanders covers

For some reason, I have only recently started noticing that there are some significant differences in the typography on the dust jackets of some of Ruth Manning-Sanders' fairy-tale books. I assume that the difference is because of the various design choices made by her United Kingdom publisher (Methuen) and her United States publisher (E.P. Dutton). But it's still interesting. Here are a couple of the bigger examples I found...

My 1977 Kindergarten diploma

For all of you Truthers out there who question whether I, in fact, have the proper academic credentials for authoring a blog about books and ephemera, I present to you this irrefutable proof — my Kindergarten Diploma.

You can see with your own eyes that 14,373 days ago — on June 10, 1977 — I was recognized for my achievement in Kindergarten skills.1 Full disclosure, though: While the illustrated diploma cites science, social studies, social interaction, art, language, reading readiness, rhythm, music, math and creative dramatics as kindergarten topics, the only thing I can definitely recall from those days is learning the alphabet. Certainly, I had no rhythm. And I'm still waiting to pick up the concept of social interaction.

The diploma is signed by my teacher, Mrs. Bonazzi, and stamped by my principal, Henry J. Wenzel Jr. While it indicates that the kindergarten was part of Lyter Elementary School in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, my recollection is that the actual classroom was located in the rear portion of C.E. McCall Middle School (which I later attended).

This diploma was produced by the Hayes School Publishing Company in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. Some of that company's other 1970s work was featured in the November 2011 post "Some bulletin-board material for Thanksgiving."

So there you have it. I officially graduated from kindergarten.

1. This also happened on June 10, 1977: The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves, 7-5, thanks to two home runs and five RBIs by Mike Schmidt and Gene Garber's seventh save of the season. The Braves used pinch-hitters named Biff and Rowland in the game. ... Also on that busy day, the first Apple II series computers went on sale, and James Earl Ray escaped from Brushy Mountain State Prison in Petros, Tennessee.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 1)

During a Tucked Away Inside post last month, I mentioned that I could get a bundle of posts out of the great photos and illustrations that are featured within my worn copy of The New Human Interest Library. So, by golly, let's do it!

This is Volume I of The Midland Press' The New Human Interest Library. It is subtitled "The Child and His World." It is copyright 1928, with this being the second printing from February 1929.

The Managing Editor of The Midland Press was S.E. Farquhar, who also, we are informed, contributed some articles on Great Industries. Among the dozens of contributors to this set of books were Richard E. Byrd, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Isabel M. Lewis, William T. Hornaday and Frederick Starr.

Here's the full list of contributing artists, since it's their work that will be featured in these posts: Herbert N. Rudeen, Florence White Williams, Donn P. Crane, Frank X. Henke, Ralph Reynolds, Robert W. Chambers, Herbert Joseph, W.C. Shepard, Don Keith Musselman, Cobb Shinn, Nettie Hall, Corina Melder-Collier, B.C. Friedman and Charles Ketcham.

(And yes, I can only assume that's the same Robert W. Chambers who wrote The King in Yellow — he was also an artist. So please feel free to connect these posts and illustrations to the occult theories of your choice.)

This 1928 edition of The New Human Interest Library consisted of six volumes, titled The Child and His World, Stories of Science, Great Industries, Our Country in Romance, Around the World and Leaders of All Times.

From what I can determine, the original set of books, titled The Human Interest Library (without the "New"), was published in 1914 by The Midland Press. There were numerous reprints of The New Human Interest Library, likely with editorial updates, between 1930 and the late 1950s.

Here are the first few illustrations that I have selected for the Papergreat spotlight. Stay tuned for much additional cool stuff under this new label.

(Photograph by Beidler; Courtesy Fashions of the House)

These two illustrations appear to have the signature of Herbert N. Rudeen...

(Tommy Tumble is a great name, by the way.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Water-Stained Work of Art: Cabinet card from Pottstown, Pennsylvania

This damaged but intriguing 19th century cabinet card of a young child leaning on a fake tree stump was produced by the studio of Lachman & Son in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. There is no name for the kid on the front or back, so that will surely remain a mystery.

Photographer Isaac S. Lachman lived from 1835 to 1901, and you can see his grave here. The "Son" in his business was likely William F. Lachman (1859-1909).

Lachman was one of Pottstown's notable producers of CDVs (carte de visite), which where thin photos, about 2.5 inches by 4 inches, mounted on cardboard. The cards were exchanged among friends and visitors in what became known as "cardomania." CDVs pre-dated cabinet cards and were, to an extent, replaced by them.

If you do a Google search for "Isaac S. Lachman," you can find a half-dozen or more other examples of his photography, including this one on the blog Who Were They? and this one from The American Civil War Museum.

Other water-stained works of art

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Postcard: Little Nell and her (zombie) grandfather

The uncredited illustration on this postcard1 shows two characters from Charles Dickens' 1840s serialized novel The Old Curiosity Shop. They are two of the main figures in the story — Nell Trent, a beautiful and kind 13-year-old orphan, and Nell's grandfather, who is not given a name by Dickens.

Dickens' cheery tale involves Nell's lonely orphan existence, poverty, gambling, a "hunchbacked dwarf moneylender," destitution, health problems and, ultimately, a lot of death.

But forget all of that for a moment. Why is Nell's nameless grandfather depicted as a zombie in this illustration?

Other depictions of the grandfather are not nearly this grotesque. There is, for example, this circa-1930 painting by Harold Copping in which the grandfather at least looks alive. And here's an 1888 photogravure by Felix O.C. Darley.

I am not the only one to wonder about this illustration. Back in May, Jenny Provenance of the Provenance and Pilgrimage website wrote about finding one of these postcards under odd circumstances.2 She called it "one of the creepiest images I have ever seen."

I do have a non-zombie theory for this illustration, but it involves a spoiler for the book.


The Old Curiosity Shop concludes with penniless Nell falling into poor health and dying after she and her grandfather have made a long and difficult journey to evade the dwarf and other Dickensian villains. Her grandfather, beset with dementia, refuses to admit she is dead and sits every day by her grave waiting for her to return. Eventually, he dies too. Fade to black.3

So here's my thought for how this illustration could work: It's supposed to be Nell's ghost, sitting silently beside her grandfather as he waits, catatonic and near-death, by her grave.

I'm sure that's not the case, but it's much more poignant and could help to explain why Nell looks so robust here, when she was the first die.

(Or maybe this is just how all of us look at this point in the U.S. presidential election)

1. The postcard is in good condition and has never been written on or used. The reverse side is generic, with no publisher or signature mark. My broad guess on a year of publication would be 1920 through 1950, with the earlier part of that range more likely.
2. The circumstances involve ephemera of a girl holding a chicken, which is awesome.
3. This ending was NOT well-received. Critics skewered the over-angelic character of Nell and her death. Angry readers destroyed their copies of the final serialized chapter to express their displeasure with the conclusion. This came after there had been a great deal of excitement leading up to the conclusion. According to Wikipedia:
"The hype surrounding the conclusion of the series was unprecedented; Dickens fans were reported to have stormed the piers in New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the final chapters in the United Kingdom), 'Is Little Nell alive?' In 2007, many newspapers claimed that the excitement at the release of the last instalment of The Old Curiosity Shop was the only historical comparison that could be made to the excitement at the release of the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."